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Top 3 Features That Winning Professional Resumes Have in Common

To give yourself a chance of turning your application into a job interview, your resume must be able to quickly and effectively deliver a message to prospective employers: You, as a candidate, are worth a closer look. Stats suggest that recruiters give your resume as little as 6-10 seconds to impress them before moving on to the next applicant. So how do you make your resume stand out to keep the recruiter’s interest intact?

We list out the 3 common features we observed amongst a set of winning resumes that helped to convert job applications into interviews, and ultimately a chance at landing a job offer.

Feature # 1) Show that you’re highly capable and relevant for the job you’re applying to with a resume that is tailored for that job

Are you taking the time to tailor your resume for every job for which you apply to? The need to tailor your resume to target the specific job you are seeking is a necessary part of today’s modern job search. If you are skipping this crucial step to save yourself a few minutes of time for each application, you may be achieving just the opposite of what you’re trying to get done. You may be spending your time blasting out resumes that will never be seen!

The use of applicant tracking systems (also known by the term ATS) by many employers means that your resume needs to include the specific keywords that are relevant to the job you are seeking. Research shows that over 95% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS. Human recruiters will be looking for specific words related to their job posting, along with these software systems. Therefore, your resume must include most of what is needed to convey your skills and qualifications, and how they’re relevant for the specific job you’re applying to. This can make the biggest difference in your resume’s ability to land you an interview.

Keep in mind that if you happen to get past the ATS screener, your resume will be read by a real person. So, don’t try to fool the ATS by using strange fonts or other tricks to hide keywords in your resume — it does not work. Instead, distribute a selection of relevant keywords throughout your resume.

Place the most important keywords where they are most likely to be seen by that person–at the very top of your resume. Then, add synonyms and secondary keywords throughout the rest of you resume to continually remind the recruiter that you have the skills they want for the job.

Additionally, once your resume is in front of a hiring manager, they will be looking for specific indications that you have the skills for the job they are looking to fill. Your resume should mention some or all of these skills somewhere within the document. 

Feature # 2) Include quantifiable results in your bullet points.

The second common trait that we found in winning resumes is that they include quantifiable results of the candidate’s accomplishments in the Experience section. This feature makes it interesting for the recruiter to read each bullet point carefully and provides more color than any generic line would. The more color you can provide in each of the bullet points, the more compelled the recruiter will be to read through the rest of your resume. 

What’s the best way to go about doing this? Think of the details — the why, the what, the when, with who and how. Here are 2 resume examples:

Resume #1 shows a segment of bullets from a candidate with 4 years of work experience as a staff accountant at a large firm — 

  • Utilized QuickBooks to record daily and weekly transactions in accounts payable across multiple client accounts
  • Prepared quarterly and annual financial statements for a select group of clients
  • Created and maintained Excel spreadsheets to track expenses, contributions and distributions

Resume #2 shows another sample of bullet points taken from a candidate with just 2 years of experience who was an accounting assistant which is a more junior position to the previous candidate —


  • Created a seamless accounting process on the medical billing process that helped save the firm and our accounting team of 5 people approximately 30 minutes each time a new client was onboarded
  • Promoted by manager within 6 months to take on management of special orders and was assigned to a top-3 client to help optimize the client’s cost for shipments
  • Received recommendation from firm’s top-3 client for saving them 15% in shipment costs on a year-over-year basis 
  • Ensured that proper credits, deductions, and tax liabilities were applied to clients’ tax returns according to Publication 17 Federal Tax Code, and became one of the firm’s go-to experts on questions relating to the tax code

Which one paints a better picture of the candidate’s accomplishments in their job role? The first example seems to be a description of several tasks that the candidate was assigned to during her role as a staff accountant whereas resume #2 presents a colorful and engaging story of how well this candidate performed and contributed to her team and the company she worked for.

Take the time to review each bullet point and amplify each sentence and it will keep the recruiter interested in continuing to read to the bottom of your resume. 


Feature # 3) Winning resumes have Experience sections that tell of what the candidate can achieve, not the specific job tasks they did

The third common feature we found when we viewed winning resumes is that they oftentimes had Experience sections that portrayed the candidate’s achievements in a manner that provides hiring managers with a glimpse of future possibilities with the candidate. Listing your employment history as a summary of the duties you performed at each of your prior jobs does not differentiate you from the crowd of many other applications and it certainly isn’t what recruiters and hiring managers want to see to convince them that you’re the right candidate for the job. 

Your resume must be a compelling, marketing piece that gives employers a picture of the future, a future in which they hire you and you become a major contributor to their team. As you craft the bullet points that appear under each of the most recent entries in your Work Experience section, your goal should be to present your accomplishments and how you can benefit your new employer.

To land the job that you’re applying for, treat your resume as a personal marketing piece. It serves as your sales pitch to the recruiter that you are the best solution to their needs, the best candidate for the position. 

Put these 3 winning features into play in your resume the next time you’re applying to a job and you’ll give yourself a good chance of standing out as a top candidate. Carmen offers a free tool that will help you customize your resume efficiently by instantly scanning the language on your resume to the text of the job you are targeting. You’ll also receive a list of recommendations for improving your resume to better match your target job. The resume checker is free, so you can continue tweaking your resume until you are satisfied with the results.

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